Poorly implemented IT systems lead to medication errors

IT systems designed to streamline medication ordering and administration can contribute to medication errors.

Health IT systems designed to improve prescription ordering and medication administration can just as easily contribute to medical errors.

That’s according to a study released by the Pennsylvania Patient Safety Advisory (PPSA), which found that computerized prescriber order entry (CPOE) systems, pharmacy IT systems and electronic medication administration tools were frequently to blame for medication errors. Nearly 70% of those errors reached the patient.

RELATED: Med ordering errors linked to CPOE use

Last year, researchers at Johns Hopkins published a study indicating that medical errors are the third-leading cause of death in the U.S., a study that drew harsh criticism from many physicians. Some have warned that digital prescription systems miss potential drug errors, and the Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT has called on vendors and providers to reduce the number of “pick list” medication errors.

Researchers with PPSA identified nearly 900 errors linked to health IT systems in Pennsylvania during the first six months of 2016, more than half of which were tied to CPOE systems. Some of the most common errors included dose omission and wrong dose or overdose. Drilling down, errors were often tied to incorrect weight documentation and free-texted instructions that were overlooked by clinicians.

RELATED: Phoenix Children’s uses big data to eliminate pediatric medication errors

The report identified several strategies to mitigate the impact of health IT on medical errors, including encouraging clinicians to report health IT errors, identifying workarounds that result from flaws in IT systems and incorporating larger, easier-to-read fonts into EHRs.